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The battle of the books: electronic vs. physical

The battle of the books: electronic vs. physical

The battle of the books: electronic vs. physical
March 27
08:00 2022

Electronic books are becoming much too popular among readers of all ages as technology advances and print books become seemingly obsolete to much of the world. But are you even reading if you aren’t holding a real book in your hands? I don’t think so.

For almost the last 2,000 years, books have been a staple in our society. Ever since the first book was printed in China around 800 A.D., people have been reading — if not to gain knowledge, then simply for fun.

However, a new, less authentic method of reading has grown popular as technology is becoming more modernized. The e-book made a name for itself back in the late ’90s when people first had widespread access to platforms such as Rocket Ebook and SoftBook.

Ever since then, people have begun to abandon classic paper-and-ink books and have become incredibly dedicated to the life of e-reading. Nearly 90 million e-readers had been sold by 2018, according to a report by Amazon. The most popular e-reading devices are the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and the number of e-reader users is projected to be about 1 billion by 2023.

While this statistic is astonishing, it hardly compares to the statistics regarding paper books. About 826 million print books were sold in 2021 alone. Print books are still statistically more popular than e-books (rightfully so), according to a study done by Pew Research. The same study shows 32 percent of Americans read strictly print books during the last year, while only 9 percent read strictly digital books, thus proving that print books are factually more popular and preferred by the masses.

Simply put, print books are superior to e-books in every way. Reading a physical book — as opposed to looking at a tiny little screen with digital book pages projected from it — offers readers a chance to escape from technology and their real-world responsibilities, helping to increase empathy levels and also lengthen their attention spans. 

While purchasing paper books can become very expensive very fast, there are plenty of cheaper options available, with libraries and second-hand bookstores being the main outlets. If we let e-books continue to gain popularity, these libraries and bookstores might not be around for much longer.

With the rapid rise in e-book usage, libraries are beginning to die. Staffing issues, budget cuts and overall disuse seen during the COVID-19 pandemic have rendered libraries quite useless recently, but we must make a united effort to preserve libraries for as long as we possibly can.

Libraries are the backbones of a multitude of academic societies, housing hundreds of valuable historical and educational books. Doing away with paper books would mean making these tangible pieces of history obsolete, which would be an injustice to society.

While maintaining the production and usage of paper books is a necessity, producing mass amounts of books is definitely costly in many ways. Around 30 million trees are cut down each year to make books, which seems like an exponential amount. However, comparing it to the 15 billion trees that are cut down generally each year, the amount of trees dedicated to books isn’t even two percent of the total number of trees we lose yearly.

It is imperative we make a conscious effort to maintain paper books’ popularity and not let e-books take over as our main form of literary consumption. Paper books very well may be the last thing that is holding humanity together after the death, destruction and disparity we’ve seen over the last few decades.

Throughout history, wars and natural disasters, books are one of the only constants we can observe. Erasing their relevance and replacing it with little electronic tablets would be a disservice to humankind.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

About Author

Natalie VanDerWal

Natalie VanDerWal

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